Award-winning poet Debora Greger grew up in Washington near the site of the Hanford atomic plant, which, unbeknownst to its workers, manufactured plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. "The high school team was named the Bombers," she writes. "The school ring had a mushroom cloud on it." In Desert Fathers, Uranium Daughters she uses what The Nation has characterized as her "deadpan wit, intelligence and marvelous insight" to explore the legacy of a Catholic girlhood spent in a landscape where "even the dust, though we didn't know it then, was radioactive."
In her fifth collection of verse, Greger (Movable Islands) brings clarity and a deft allusive touch to themes of innocence and faith, love and death. These poems are animated by the spirit of Washington State's Hanford nuclear plant, where the plutonium used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was manufactured. Greger grew up near Hanford, a town ignorant of the nearby toxic danger even while its fathers went to work at the plant. Greger displays a bracing combination of nostalgia and deadpan wit in her evocation of a childhood filled with Catholic school ideals and Cold War fears. "Someone's father left Mass early/ for the first shift at the reactor./ Who needed intercession by the mother of God?/ The angel Plutonium would keep us safe." Greger's imagery runs often to light, dust and weeds in the company of Catholic motifs such as angels and saints, repeated in formal measures of iambic pentameter and the occasional sonnet. The glow of youth and innocence against a backdrop of mortality-"the world trimmed in white/ on its way to death"-hovers delicately over these poems.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 31, 1996
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